By Brigette Williams :: Photography by Jamison Mosley[dropcap]W[/dropcap]
hen you want a taste of Louisiana, The Faded Rose in the Riverdale area of Little Rock fills the yearning.
Founder Ed David, 74, is ready to hand things over to his General Manager and son Zac, 35, who, according to dad, is soon to be president. With Mardi Gras celebrations culminating on Fat Tuesday, February 28th, we asked them to share their love of traditional Creole cooking.
You’re a Louisiana man, Ed. Why open a Creole restaurant in Little Rock? I was born and raised in Louisiana. This is the food I knew. After a long career with the federal government, the last eight years were spent traveling from Dallas to Little Rock. I knew I didn’t want to go back to New Orleans or live in Dallas. I found the building next door (now Maddie’s Place) in August of ’81 and spent the next months remodeling it into The Faded Rose.
Talk about interesting career changes. Why did you want to open a restaurant? I’ve always cooked. You grow up in New Orleans you learn to cook, unless you have an aversion to it. When I was single, I’d always cook for friends, a dozen or two dozen at a time, who’d always tell me, “You need to open a restaurant.” Bottom line, I really wanted to be able to see more of an impact of the work I personally did that helps people. Zac can tell you, the number of kids who have come through this restaurant as employees, and because of their work, have been able to take care of themselves, grow up and raise their own kids who are now going to college. It feels good to know I had a little to do with that.
Arkansans obviously love your food. You’re about to celebrate 35 years! Someone asked if we were throwing a party for our 35th anniversary. Why? Compared to Antoine’s (New Orleans) we’re babies! They’re 176 years old! Same family! Just amazing! Some day maybe, Faded Rose will catch up with Antoine’s. But, May 10th is the day we turn 35 and it’s on a Wednesday, which is a double whammy—our anniversary and crawfish day. Doesn’t get better than that!
Zac, you’re 35 and Faded Rose will soon be 35. Can we assume you grew up here? You can, the restaurant opened six months after I was born. Mom dropped me off here every day after school, where I’d run around until 5. My afterschool snacks were here at the bar top. The employees taught me how to throw the rocks at the unit that used to be out back. And, on crawfish days, I’d play with crawfish in the water puddles. ED: The staff definitely helped raise him over the years.
You went off to the big city of Chicago for college, Zac, but came back home. Why? While in college around my senior year there were lots of conversations about what we were going to do after graduation. One conversation led to a discussion of keeping the family business going. It dawned on me what I had in Little Rock in The Faded Rose and how special that is. Chicago was great and all, but I started thinking about growing up in Little Rock and my friends that are here; their parents are here. My friends had generations of family and friends here. My parents didn’t have those same relationships because of relocating here, but I see it now with my 3-year-old and his friends that are kids of my friends.
What are your memories of food and Mardi Gras in New Orleans? ED: Foods have always been consistent. People don’t realize, yes, you’ve got the fancy Antoine’s (birthplace of oysters Rockefeller) and Galatoire’s (upscale French Creole), but you also had down-home neighborhood spots like Whiteys on Diamond Road and Clarence and Lefty’s, and the food is just as good.
What new trends do you try? ED: I do authentic New Orleans food. We don’t vary at all in presentation. We leave the fancy food to others.
ZAC: The things we do here are very traditional. We’re doing traditional roast beef or shrimp po’ boys on New Orleans’ tried and true Leidenheimer Bread Company’s French bread, made by the Leidenheimer family since the 1800s.
You mentioned you sell more shrimp po’ boys than roast beef. Any idea why? ED: ‘Cause it’s messy to eat. People don’t want the juice dripping down their sleeve. If it’s not dripping down your sleeve it can’t be a good po’ boy! (laughing) That’s been true since I was a kid!
Your thoughts on the Little Rock food scene? ZAC: We were recently meeting with the Leidenheimer family talking about New Orleans post Katrina. They said before Katrina there were 400-500 restaurants there. Now, there are more than 1,000. But, the new growth is from a variety of ethnic restaurants, which is a good indication of how healthy a city is, which is why I feel great about Little Rock. You can throw a rock and find a restaurant from various ethnicities here. I think we take it for granted just how much diversity we have in food for a city our size.
Follow Ed and Zac’s playlist on Spotify that includes legendary New Orleans’ artists, including Alan Toussant and Irma Thomas https://open.spotify.com/user/aymagazine